It is difficult to imagine that the creaminess of hummus that wraps around the crunch of falafel makes two countries cry foul. Disputed land and guns aside, both Lebanon and Israel claim the chickpea dish as their own. In 2009, Lebanon broke the world record by making the largest tub of hummus weighing 2,055 kilos. In January 2010, Israel fought back and cooked 3,630 kilos of hummus. Months later, Lebanon retaliated by making a 10,450-kilo vat of the humble food, tried to sue Israel for branding it as their national dish, and wanted to register the word “hummus” with the European Union, with a protective designation of origin.
The rasgulla, that moon-white ball of cheese dipped in sugar syrup, has left a bitter taste in the mouths of some people from West Bengal and Odisha. In 2015, Odisha sought a Geographical Indication (GI) tag for the sweetmeat, claiming that it was invented in Puri and was first offered to the gods during the Rath Yatra in the 12th century. This story is widely contested and it is believed that it was the Portuguese who introduced Indians to the idea of curdling milk into cheese in the 15th century. The modern preparation of rasgulla is credited to a Calcutta-based gentleman, Nobin Chandra Das, who also marketed the sweet in the mid-1800s.
Hot Potato and Pisco
Chile and Peru find little to cheer over the provenance of pisco, the unaged brandy. Both countries claim naming rights over the grape spirit, and both consider the tart, egg-and-lime-flavoured cocktail, pisco sour, as their national drink. It doesn’t end there. The two countries don’t see eye to eye on the origins of the potato either. In 2008, Peru claimed that the spud grew in Peru and that the “Peruvian potato saved Europe from hunger.” This was in response to a Chilean minister, who claimed that 99 per cent of the world’s potatoes have some kind of genetic link to potatoes from Chile.
Slice of History
Covered in whipped cream and fruit, the pillowy meringue-based dessert, pavlova, brings out some stubborn sides of New Zealand and Australia. The dessert is named after the gravity-defying grace of Russian ballet dancer Anna Pavlova who visited both countries in the 1920s. Since then, both countries passionately claim to have invented the dessert. “I can find at least 21 pavlova recipes in New Zealand cookbooks by 1940, which was the year the first Australian ones appeared,” Dr Helen Leach, author of The Pavlova Story told The Daily Telegraph. In 2010, it was the Oxford English Dictionary that (sort of) put the debate to rest by announcing that the first recorded pavlova recipe did indeed appear in New Zealand in 1927.
Kareena Gianani is the former Commissioning Editor at National Geographic Traveller India. She loves stumbling upon hole-in-the-wall bookshops, old towns and collecting owl souvenirs in all shapes and sizes.